Secret documents seized by British Parliament show that Facebook was warned about possible Russian data collection in 2014, Business Insider reports. The company was warned by one of its own engineers that “entities with Russian IP addresses had been using a Pinterest API key to pull over three billion data points a day through the Ordered Friends API,” according to U.K. lawmaker Damian Collins.
The documents reviewed by Collins pertain to a legal battle between Facebook and and an app developer called Six4Three. The potential breach was brought up by Collins at an International Grand Committee hearing on Tuesday, during which Facebook representatives were questioned about the series of scandals involving Russian disinformation campaigns. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was not present at the hearing, but Policy Chief Richard Allan was.
Allan refused to answer Collins’ questions about the 2014 warning, calling the information presented in resurfaced documents “at best partial, at worst misleading.” According to Ars Technica, Collins obtained the secret documents during a meeting with Six4Three’s Managing Director Ted Kramer. After being told that he was in contempt of Parliament, Kramer panicked and proceeded to frantically search his Dropbox account. He then copied the documents to a USB stick and gave them to Collins who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee in the British Parliament.
The documents obtained by the lawmaker “contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.” Business Insider reports that Collins said that the documents will not be made available to the public yet.
The fact that Facebook ignored warnings of Russian data collection hardly comes as a surprise considering that the company appears to be metamorphosing into a scandal generator, plagued by gross abuse of its platforms enabled or ignored by Zuckerberg and his employees. According to the New York Times, over the last three years, Facebook has shifted its focus to damage control as bad actors continue to abuse the social media platform in an effort to influence elections, sow discord, spread propaganda, and sway public opinion. The publication notes that Facebook appears to have switched from defending its tainted image to viciously attacking critics.
The company appears to have embarked on a charm offensive by lobbying against critics and diverting attention to other similar platforms. On November 22, as the Guardian reported, Facebook admitted to hiring a public relations firm to attack its critics supposedly associated with philanthropist and liberal donor George Soros. Facebook’s campaign against Soros was deemed anti-Semitic, prompting CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to disavow knowledge of the PR firm’s hiring.